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A Strong and Sexual Being

by Vicki McKenna(more info)

listed in chinese oriental medicine, originally published in issue 250 - November 2018

Sexual Differences

Many cultures and religions have made, and continue to make, the argument that as men and women are born with clearly different sexual characteristics so these differences determine fixed gender roles - men are the strong providers whereas women are the passive domesticated child bearers. Feminism has, of course, brought light to bear on these rigid views and also today through the LGBT movement we are querying more and more what exactly is meant by gender and sexual identity. There is a growing population of young people and adults identifying with a gender other than the one they were born with and some who are in fact seeing themselves as ‘gender neutral’. And currently, Australia, New Zealand, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Argentina, Denmark and Malta all allow gender-neutral birth certificates, passports, or other official documentation.[1]

Science is also questioning our traditional ways of thinking about male and female -a recent study suggests that it is a misconception to suggest that male and female brains are distinctly different. In The New Scientist Gina Rippon, a professor of cognitive neuroimaging at Aston University in Birmingham, UK writes; “Based on detailed and careful analysis of core features seen in scans of more than 1400 female and male human brains, Israeli researcher Daphna Joel and colleagues demonstrated that most are unique mixes or “mosaics” of features previously thought to be either “male” or “female”. A brain that is not a mix was found to be extremely rare. “[2]

Prof Gina Rippon

A welcome blow to the myth of distinct male and female ...

A welcome blow to the myth of distinct male and female brains. A major study that undermines the damaging idea that male and female brains are fundamentally different could be a game-changer, says Gina Rippon in New Scientist

Uniting Yin and Yang

Cultures and religions for aeons have upheld the idea that we must identify absolutely with the sexual characteristics we have been born with - probably for very pragmatic reasons. From early times women ensured the survival of our human species by bearing children and men defended them and their settlements against predators and marauders - it thus perhaps made sense at that time to encourage a more rigid view of gender identity. But Lao Tzu, founder of Daoism in the sixth century BC had a very different, more revolutionary attitude for those times suggesting that men let go of cultivating aggression and instead encourage a more female, yielding attitude. So it was that he wrote in the Dao de Ching (chapter 42); “ One gains by losing and loses by gaining. What others teach, I also teach; that is: a violent man will die a violent death! This will be the essence of my teaching.” This view led to Daoist men cultivating their female energy - gentleness was now valued. Similarly, Daoist women were encouraged to be more like men taking up leadership roles and generally leading independent lives.

Daoists have long had the understanding that each of us is a mix of male and female. Yin (female energy) and Yang (male energy) are not two separate fixed entities but are fluid –the one flows into the other as a continuous cycle of energies. Daoists draw on nature to explain this using the classic example of the rising and setting sun over a high mountain. The sunny side of the mountain is the Yang side. As the sun travels across the sky, what was previously the shady side, the Yin side, becomes the Yang side. This cycle will continue for as long as the sun shines upon the Earth. You can’t have one without the other --there is no day without night. Thus Daoist men were encouraged to cultivate their Yin aspects –to cultivate qualities of receptivity, passivity, to be more yielding whilst female Daoists cultivated their Yang qualities of strength and assertiveness. Certainly, this aspect of Daoism did not influence Chinese culture as a whole where women remained downtrodden for centuries but amongst Daoist practitioners, the goal has always been to practise techniques that will harmonize, balance and unite both Yin and Yang energies - uniting Heaven (Yang) and Earth (Yin).

Daoists realise that we all contain male and female energies within us; we cannot limit ourselves by rigidly sticking to one aspect of our being - we are neither solely male or solely female but are a continuous circulation of both - Yin and Yang are integral parts of our wholeness and each complements the other. Historically this understanding led Daoists to develop internal practises that brought about a balancing of male and female energies -  internal alchemy to unite Yin and Yang energies within their individual selves. Every human being has both Yin and Yang energies within their being and these practices involve harmonizing these energies to attain and cultivate a balance of Yin and Yang and thus establish health and longevity.


The Immortal Soul of the Taoist Adept

The Immortal Soul of the Taoist Adept

Neidan Gong

Neidan Gong consists of meditative practises that can be described as interior alchemy (as opposed to Chi Gong which is associated with external exercises) where male and female energies are gathered together and controlled internally - these are practises that are taught to Daoists advanced in their practice. The meridians (energy channels) known as the Governing Vessel (GV)and the Conception vessel (CV)are centrally involved in these practices. GV runs up the spine to the crown and CV down the front of the body from crown to perineum. Both these key meridians meet around the perineum area and by directing energies at this point one has the ability to harmonize Yin and Yang within, stop energy from leaking out and thus keep the energy flow strong and healthy. This is a very esoteric practise and is best taught by a teacher well versed in Neidan Gong. Meanwhile here is a short exercise to get a taste of Neidan Gong and can be practised before going on to your regular meditation practise.

  • Sit comfortably and ensure both feet are firmly placed on the floor;
  • Push your tongue up to the roof of your mouth and clench your teeth. Pull your chin in towards the back of your neck;
  • Tighten the perineum area (perineum, genitals buttocks and anus) whilst also clenching fists arms and legs. Hold this for several seconds;
  • Affirm to yourself “I am a mix of male and female - a strong and sexual being replenishing my life force.”
  • Now relax and go onto your usual meditation.


1. Young , Shirley. He, She, They, CCWB Press. 2016



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About Vicki McKenna

Vicki McKenna BA Lic Ac trained at The College of Traditional Chinese Acupuncture in Leamington Spa with Professor Worsley from 1981 gaining her Lic Ac. in 1984 and has been practising acupuncture in Scotland since then. Her book A Balanced Way Of Living; Practical and Holistic Strategies for Coping with Post Polio Syndrome is available from 


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